Every tree limb overhead seems to sit and wait, while every step you take becomes a twist of fate.
Up on the watershed, standing at the fork in the road...

If you are new to our adoption blog please take a moment to scroll down to the archives at the bottom of this page and start with July 2009 post "Watershed."


Hair. Am I overthinking it?

Baby girl has lovely hair. Let's begin with that statement and work backwards.

For three months exactly I pored over 127 photos of Ariam and her hair asking myself these questions: is it spiraly? is it more puffy? is it going to grow out or will it grow down at some point? Is it a 3c or 4a or 4 b or 4 c? (She is type 4a.) Is it an L, O, I or S? (She's an O.)

Oh the hair obsession. It was something to focus my energy on.

I devoured Happy Girl Hair (although realized that without a child in front of me all lessons learned on that site were unabsorbed - had to go back and reread after Ari came home.)

I tentatively bought a couple of products to bring to Ethiopia with me but neglected to bring a comb or detangler for the 19 days we would be with her.

Headbands were practically purchased en masse.

In my daydreams I could braid and cornrow and create puffs by just watching one quick video online. In those daydreams I had a very still and very cooperative toddler. Hah!

We met Ariam. The days that we visited her at her orphanage she had very puffy combed out hair that was hard to assess. It was soft like a cloud. Immediately after her bath that soft puff coiled up on itself, began to knot and formed tiny pencil eraser coils. I sent off a panicked email requesting advice on detangling and that's when I found out that you actually need to have a comb and detangler (thick conditioner with slip to it) to detangle. Huh!

We have taken a hair journey. It's a journey we will be on for many many years together and one that I take very seriously. While hair doesn't define a person, it frames us for first impressions. So it's important.

I basically stalk blogs just looking for posts on hair so I can check and double check on our technique vs. other's techniques. So for those of you waiting for the hair details here they are:

We buy all Carol's Daughter. Because they sell it at Sephora. (Hi CD and Sephora - please send me some free products!) I would try other products and have even marked websites with things I want to order but when it comes down to it I want to be able to go to an actual store to sniff the products and put my fingers in them.

So - Carol's Daughter. But we never use Tui scented anything. It smells too grown up to me. Like my baby is going to head out on a date or something. Or like she's spending her days in my freshman year dorm room over enjoying the patchouli candle.

Every 3-4 days:
1. Bath (she likes this) without soap. J is perpelexed by this given his fetish for antibacterial anything. But her skin can't handle even mild baby soap without drying out. We're sort of playing around with oatmeal baths at this point which makes J crazy with worry over the idea of oatmeal stuck in her nether regions.

2. Wet down her hair in the bath (she hates this)

3. Wash and rinse with Head and Shoulders shampoo (yes, um, remember the trip to Children's Hospital we took on Monday because I was sure she had a scalp fungal infection? Dandruff. Oh yes, my baby has DANDRUFF. And it is U.G.L.Y. Please don't judge. I tried so so very hard and really things were looking so good for awhile.)

4. Giant glop of Carol's Daughter Black Vanilla smoothie conditioner (rub through hair and scalp, evenly distribute, finger detangle)

5. Scream for J to get his butt in the bathroom and hold down our daughter's squiggling screaming behind

6. Leave on for 5, then rinse well

7. NO TOWEL DRYING - leave hair to airdry in natural curl pattern

8. Spray with mix of water/Black Vanilla detangler AND then add another leave in conditioner (I have a couple of random samples of things I try or use Carol's Daughter hair milk)

9. Comb through hair while holding sections at the root and just combing ends, when detangled sort of fluff out with fingers

10. THIS IS THE BIG ONE Add pea sized amount of Carol's Daughter Mimosa Hair Honey
For me this has been a game changer. After I rub this through her hair the curls stay coily and shiny for at least 2 days without turning to fuzzy cloud fluff. Sometimes I wrap a few coils around my fingers and stretch them out to add depth and definition.

I never scrunch the hair or pull it. I never comb it when it's dry. I regularly trap her and gently rub in random things like shea butter, jojoba oil, or coconut oil when I see the hair looking or feeling brittle (usually after nap time.) I am sure there is a theory behind this and actual technique for adding oil to seal moisture. Need to look into that.

Whew. That's it. Well, plus a steroid ointment we have to put on her scalp until the dandruff chunks leave (almost gone!) and I left out the part where we have to rub 2 different kinds of steriod ointments on her neck and leg eczema. Add in a lot of wiggling, protesting and naked dashes through the house and you have the whole picture.

Some of the problems we've experienced and how we handled them:

1. Lack of definition to curls (see pool photo in my post below) has been mostly solved with the Mimosa Hair honey after the bath. To reactivate the curls the next day I just lightly fluff everything at the root with a wide tooth comb or my fingers spread apart, spritz with water/detangler combo and rub in a quarter sized glop of Hair Milk. Seems to do the trick.

2. Greasiness! A huge problem in the early days when I just kept dumping more and more product on the lack of definition. Some days her hair looked wet all day. Oops. Resolved by more/better product after hair washes but less on a daily morning basis.

3. Dandruff. Well apparently drug store shampoo is the answer.

4. Breakage. We are dealing with that now. When she wakes up we'll find on average two clumps of curls that stick out from the rest and can be gently pulled off. Has resulted in loss of all longer curls on the sides of her head where she sleeps. Highly textured black hair is the most fragile hair there is and most prone to damage. We are now trying to add Carol's Daughter hair elixer (quarter sized amount rubbed in my palms and rubbed into her hair) before bed every night. And I plan to start adding coconut oil on nights before shampoo days from now on. Both the elixer and coconut oil strengthen the hair shaft. So we'll see. So far today (following a night sleeping with the elixer on) she's had the best hair day she's had in a long time!

5. People thinking she's a boy. We are still encountering this particularly when her hair has been freshly washed and so is more tightly coiled and short looking. I solve this by adding her signature headbands. What can you do? Super annoying.

So far no puffs have been achieved. No cornrows have been practiced. I can't even get the child to sit still for her morning spritz and am chasing her around her room while she laughs at me. I think we will master hair health first and then move on to actual styling later. Like when she realizes how interesting Dora or Yo Gabba Gabba can be. Stillness people, we need stillness!

That is our hair dealy-o. It is very very important to me. I have never, not once, not even one day skipped hair routine. I feel like if I had to choose between going out in my pajamas for my day or letting Ariam go out for her day with slept on dried out looking hair I would definitely go out in my pajamas. Minus a bra even. Minus shoes. It just wouldn't happen. Hair. It is crucial to a child's sense of self, particularly growing up in a trans-racial family. I will never sacrifice her hair.

What do you do for hair? Any great tips out there?


  1. You're making me wonder if I'm under-thinking our kids' hair. It's funny you did this post, because just this morning I was looking at my little tub of hair products and thinking "maybe I should do a blog post." My routine is pretty simple at this point based on advice from my friend with "mixed" kids... all three of her kids have very different hair. I'm currently using brands Motions and Blue Magic. So far their hair is healthy (once we got rid of that dumb fungus!) but I'm planning to do more research, as I know their hair will change. I definitely learned a couple of things from your post, i.e. not to towel dry.

  2. First off, only wash Ari's hair once a week. The less you wash her hair the less it will stop breaking and dry out. I know its hard to fathom for us white people to wash hair once a week but its the truth. haha, also if you worried about lice because of dirty hair, lice "hate" hair products, especially coconut oil. As I look at Ari's hair, it looks sort of nappy like Misrak's; she hasn't been blessed with the true ET wavy hair where you can just comb and be done with it. Stop buying expensive products! You are wasting your money.. For Misrak and Ana, I use coconut oil (the thick greay one from Sally's) to grease their scalp. Than I use Moisturizing Finishing Mist from Sally's and comb it and part it up. The greasing the scalp part is really important to avoid the dandruff. Than as Ari's hair grows, I would just part it and put in in at least 4 pieces. The less her hair is down or open the faster it will grow.

  3. I agree wash way less...and there is a method to the oil use and I think you will be pleased with the results once in use.

    Also Ari is very little still. She is going to have breakage, bald spots, frizz. Just go with it and don't stress...this is from the mother that cried for a few weeks when Myra's hair started falling out (it's back and so cute).

    Keep up the good work and don't be after to order online. CD is good but there is some REALLY GREAT stuff out there. Have some fun!

  4. Did your dr. tell you to use Head and Shoulders? I asked a pharmacist about it because I had heard that it could help with ringworm on the scalp, but he said he would not put it on his 5 year old because it is so strong (chemically). Just a thought.

    We use Darcy's Botanicals (order online) for leave in conditioner and styling creme-I LOVE the leave in and that they have most of their products unscented-a must for me!

    Have fun...I am learning as I go and having a good time, with some bad hairs days thrown in there, too!

  5. Sharon - yes the pediatric derm. told us to use Head and Shoulders for LIFE for her. But the doc is white so I was a bit skeptical. So unsure of what to do.

    I think what I'm realizing after a LOT of internet surfing is that I need to oil Ariam's scalp. I simply thought the products on her hair were enough and would moisturize the scalp. So yesterday I got it all parted up, clipped into sections and gave her a scalp massage with jojoba. It really helped. Planning to look into this scalp oiling and make sure I am using the right oil for it on a regular basis.

    Her hair is so delicate. It looks thick but isn't at all. It is very fine, thin, mostly soft, and each coil is spongy. It gets dry and oily at the same time! Blogging about it though is helping me to really evaluate what I am doing/when/why.

    Please keep leaving comments. I need you all!!

  6. Well I've been meaning to do a post on our hair routine as per your request...sorry I haven't gotten around to it! It sounds like your routine is far more involved than ours, so we're pretty boring.

    I can't decide if Noemi is a 3c or a 4a--thinking 3c, but sometimes I'm just not so sure. I, too, use CD products as I've found Noemi's hair, for whatever reason, does not mat/tangle as badly with them. It takes me less time to comb out her hair when I wash it. I only wash it weekly and have found that has helped her hair retain more moisture as compared to when I was washing it every 3-4 days.

    I do like the Tui oil a lot and that helps define finger curls after we wash/condition. And I swear by the CD hair milk. I even keep a small bottle in the car to do a little fluff after a long ride in the car seat. I'll have to try the hair honey to help with the frizz in the back--thanks for the tip! I'm currently looking at silk hair caps as per the advise of friends to help keep natural oils in her hair and maintain her finger curls while she sleeps. I'll let you know if I find one that seem helpful for a wiggly-wiggly girl! I don't have high hopes that Noemi will keep much of anything on her head overnight!

    thanks for this post!

  7. OK- Teg is a 3c or a O as well. His hair is very fine but quite thick in most places... getting thicker as time goes on in the other places...

    FIrst... consider oiling her scalp?I added a recipe that may help below. You can add in some tee tree or a scent if you want... but tee tree may be good for now
    Second... someone suggested washing once a week? NOT SHAMPOO WASH that often! Maybe a co-wash.

    Curly Q's has a few 'trial size things'. I loved their conditioner and custard.. but the custard was a little heavy for my guy. .. so I ordered the trail pack that had the milkshake and a spritz as well as the cleanser. LOOOVE LOOOVE LOOVE. I already ordered the bigger sizes. Even the trial pack is like $20 but... the big sizes are huge and so when I order I order a few things and then the shipping is free. (Can you tell i really like it.

    All that-- but really- the thing that is our quick go to- when I know there is little time or cooperation on the horizon.. I melted (double boiler) equal parts coconut oil and shea butter with a dash of jojoba and very little beeswax. I'll spray his hair (or part of it =) to get it wet and then rub that in (after it has set obviously.. I just keep it in a little glad.ware thing) The consistency will very depending on how much of what I put in there (i just eyeball it) but it is way easier than any of the ingredients seperatly as far as i'm conserned.

    As far as cooperation. You have to expect hit and miss at this point. think long term... and if you end up somewhere with it half done... so be it. Get done doing your part- before she loses it. Playing with her hair during snuggle times and other times when you aren't looking to style it will help long term too. You want it to be enjoyable association.... as she gets older.. bribary works( Dora and cool pops!) Teg will even 'do' my hair now - which is going to look great when i drop him off at school wth oil all in it.... But he still has his uncooperative days... yesterday 3 20minute sessions of what normally takes 25 mintues... arg.

  8. I'm with Shannon on the Curly Q's. These products have made a huge difference for Mer's hair, which sounds like it is a lot like Ariam's. We use the shampoo and conditioner about once a week, but if it is looking really dirty in the middle of the week we wash with conditioner only. Jelly cream for styles, curly cake shake after bath a nd when hair is wet, and down and out syles for when her hair is... well... down and out. We also use a mixture of 5 parts water to 1 part apricot oil to freshen curls, although the down and out stules (when put in wet hair and let dry) generally keeps the coils really nice. Good luck.. it is quite the trial and error process!

  9. A, you crack me UP! in a good way. my little one is not NEARLY that curly and she will barely let me COMB! she look frazzle dazzle all day most of the time!

  10. oh my gosh, could I feel ANY more like a bad mother at the moment? My reality is much more like elissa's. I am a bit ashamed. This is on my list of things that i want to be much better at. |Unfortunately, it's a LOOOOONG list.


About Me

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J and I have been married for almost 15 years. We have shared many adventures and a lot of watershed moments. In 2009 I began blogging and in 2010 we adopted our daughter from Ethiopia. In March of 2012 we began the process to adopt a little boy from Haiti. This blog follows the many twists and turns on the road to our two children and beyond.